A lot of people have been asking for my opinion about the recent events of a group of Mambo developers forking Mambo into a new project Joomla. For those of you who are just hearing the news, the basic story is that Miro International (which originally developed Mambo, donated it to open source, then re-initiated interest and involvement in the project), formed a foundation to manage and own the project. While the tactic of establishing a foundation generally considered a noble and good thing, Miro alienated some key members of the Mambo development community by not giving them a voice in the foundation and being heavy handed in setting the direction. As a result, some key developers exercised their right to fork the code and establish a new project.
The reality of open source is that this type of thing happens from time to time. In the open source content management world, look at the proliferation of Nuke projects that came out of PHP-Nuke. Communities are self forming and self regulating and it takes strong and perceptive leadership to hold them together. This is why we look at very closely at the leadership of a project when selecting open source software. Still, it is a shame that this happened to Mambo because it felt like this project was on a roll. After winning several awards and critical praise for ease of use, and with all the activity on Mambo Forge (a community of module developers), Mambo was getting a lot of attention.
So what happens next? In the short term, we are definitely in "wait and see" mode. Joomla has the buzz and the passion, and (I would say), the leadership. Mambo has the infrastructure and the install base but Miro will probably have to step up their support of the project to replace the momentum lost by the departure of key developers. Companies that jump from Mambo to Joomla will be pleased to know that many of the modules written for Mambo will work on Joomla, at least for now. You can see a list of Joomla compatible modules here. It may be that a lot of the module developers redirect their projects to Joomla if they are loyal to the Joomla group or if they feel like that is where the momentum is.
Tony Byrne, from CMS Watch writes that Joomla will focus on adding new features - a slight deviation from Mambo's focus on simplicity which has served the project well. It will be interesting to see the divergence between these projects.